Does your child walk away from our water table looking like they just took a bath with their clothes on? Playing in the water is so fun! Read below to find out what they were learning while they were splashing and exploring; they are learning a lot whether they stay dry or are drenched at the end of the day.
The water table is big! It is one of the biggest spaces at SPARK so your child is going to need some time to explore all it has to offer. Let's talk about how H2OH! works and how it encourages your child to learn. On one side, there are LEGO Duplo blocks. Here, your child can work to build a dam that separates the waterfall pipe from the water buckets on the walls. The other side is calmer with a steady stream of water pouring down the wall as well as a water tornado and water bubble. Both the water tornado and water bubble can be changed using the silver wheels at the bottom of the table. The final interactive piece of H2OH! is the tube system. It works by turning the red knobs (valves) to change the water levels and move plastic balls through the pipes. The balls stay in the pipes and do not come out, but it is a puzzle to figure out how to get them to move right where you want them!
Bend down for the wheels, walk from knob to knob, and reach out far for the Duplos. It takes all the big muscles to play at the water table. Your child is learning their limits and strengthening their muscles while they step on and off the step stool to reach the
water and play with the water bubble. When they want to change the water bubble they will need to climb down to turn the handle, which might be tricky, and check-in with how the water changed. Bending up and down, and climbing up and down, will take time and focus to make sure their plan is successful; all while developing better body awareness and refining their large muscles. Do you have an older child who wants to feel the water bubble move so they are trying to reach one arm under the water while the other arm is reaching to turn the wheel? This takes balance and coordination to make sure you can reach both objects.
The LEGO Duplo side of the water table encourages more fine motor skills like picking up LEGO bricks and fitting them where they need to go to stop the water flow. This encourages hand muscle development differently than building with LEGOs typically would, because of the added water element. There is a current in the water creating resistance where your child wants to stick the bricks. This takes more muscle and focus to get the brick where it needs to go. The bricks are also floating in the water and will bob around. If your child goes to pick one up and misses their target the brick might float away. Fine motor muscle planning and execution are being refined with every brick they add to their dam.
H2OH! is a sensory experience with running water, pools of water, LEGO mats, and the table itself. Some children don't want to get wet or be splashed, while other children will spend their entire day playing with water. As your child is developing their boundaries with water and water play, they are developing their emotional regulation. They learn consequences and responses to those consequences. For example, when I throw my hand down onto the water, it creates a splash and my clothes get wet. If a child is not okay with wet clothes they then have a response to that problem, whether it be a cry or a statement like, "Oh my clothes got wet, they will dry." Most children are somewhere in between but the learning process of moving from crying to discomfort to acknowledgment is emotional development.
There is also a lot of peer interaction happening at H2OH! If two children are playing
independently on the water bubble side of the table and one has control of the wheel it will affect how the water flows
for both children. The child without the wheel might not have been ready for the bubble to expand or the water to change. This creates an opportunity for discussion about how they both can play in the water and how their actions affect the peers around them. The more opportunities children have to interact increases their social awareness.
The engineering component of building with LEGO brings in math concepts of experiencing architecture and construction concepts, like having a dam design in mind and making it come to life. That might come with challenges such as how the LEGOs fit together or how long and tall the dam needs to be to stop the water. They might also use the colors of the bricks to make patterns which is another math skill.
This is an opportunity to learn math basics with your child as well. For instance, "those LEGO bricks look different I wonder how they are different?" You can then count the number of holes on the top, talk about the colors, and look at the size of the bricks. This is another area where you can practice counting by counting the bubbles on the water or the LEGOs floating in the water. Every counting opportunity reinforces the one item to one number concept, as well as the final number you count which is the total number of items you counted.
This is a great place to talk about the water cycle -how water falls and evaporates and then starts over again. There is falling water on both sides of the exhibit. The wall with the buckets that dump when full can be a conversation starter about the weight of water and gravity. The water ramp side, which is a big waterfall, can be a discussion about rivers and waterfalls.
The ball float puzzle is another place for science conversations around pressure. As your child is turning the knobs, observe how the balls are moving and how they rise and fall. Say something like, "I wonder why that knob made the ball move up and that knob made it move down." Making observations to encourage your child to continue to wonder and explore will motivate them to hypothesize and experiment.
Look at the structure as you approach. What colors were used or what materials? How is it designed? What details do you notice? You can talk about the artistic elements of H2OH! as a whole, as well as the little details such as the water buckets or waterfall ramps. Take the activity home and draw what you remember it looking like, or draw it in the Imagination Station if there is paper and markers, crayons, or colored pencils out.
Also, look at the architecture of the LEGO Duplo dam your child or another child has built. Notice the colors they used, the pattern, or the height when making your observations. You can talk about how to change or modify a dam another child started and walked away from, or how two children can work together to stop the water flow. These creations are all art and expression, the more they explore the more plans they will imagine.
Scripts to Try
"I wonder how the water feels today, is it warm or cold?"
"It looks like you don't want your clothes to get wet, would you like to try wearing a raincoat?"
"I see you splashing in the water, are you okay with your shirt getting wet?"
If their clothes cannot get wet, "Oh we need to slow down our hands to keep the splashes small and the water in the table."
"I see you building with all the orange LEGO Duplos. Tell me about your structure."
"It looks like getting those LEGOs to stick to the ground is really tricky, you are working so hard to make this dam!"
"I wonder what these red knobs do... Oh, those balls are moving! I wonder where they will go?"
Ask lots of open-ended questions and observe your child playing. Watch their imagination and learning come alive. Go have fun in the water table and don't forget to wear shoes and use walking feet!